Tribute to Rick Finkelstein1 Heroes, News and Blog
Earlier this week I read an article on Bode Miller, in which he said, “It’s a perishable process, being a ski racer.” As I tribute my friend Rick Finklestein, who lost his battle with cancer this week, I don’t think that he would have minded me quoting Bode. The death of a friend always reminds me of the perishable part. Bode’s right the skills of a ski racer deteriorate. Some skills develop as we get older, some disappear never to be found again, but Bode’s comments imply a fairly predictable path. Rick’s death from cancer isn’t predictable. The diagnosis of cancer isn’t predictable. I guess there are people who are more at risk as there are those who are more at risk for a heart attack or those more at risk to walk in front of a bus.
Bode tells us that his born on date is approaching expiration. I don’t expect his skiing to reflect a new sense of mortality, something he’s seemed to notice and part of what makes him so much fun to watch. I don’t expect that to change this year and I don’t think he expects it to change, but our mortality can change in an instant—that instant between exhale and inhale—and that’s what I get from Rick’s passing. In the comfort of my every day life I forget my mortality until someone that I consider a friend or a contemporary dies.
I feel my own mortality now that Rick is gone just as I felt the slip of time when Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys died. I wasn’t a huge fan of the Beastie Boys, but Yaunch was forty-seven, just a few years older than me, making it seem like it could happen to anyone and I know it can. There are many far younger than me that lose their lives every day, but the ones that resonate are the ones that hit closest to home. I think of the things left undone while I’d planned for so much more time—always another tomorrow when it takes today, yesterday and so many days before to make a dream a reality.
Rick found success in movie and television as the Vice-Chair and COO at Universal. I had dinner with him one time behind the velvet curtain at a steakhouse in LA. Spike Lee approached to remind him of a project he wanted to pitch. Rick didn’t betray anything while remaining cordial and engaging. That’s as much as I saw of Rick professionally and I admit that I was probably looking for something to indicate his success. I knew him because he had a skiing accident and a couple of years ago Kurt Miller convinced him to learn to ski for the movie The Movement. I was in the movie too as a bit of a hero of disabled skiing. I saw myself in Rick when I saw him learn, though I was far luckier in that I didn’t have movie cameras follow me around before I knew what I was doing. Gracious and composed with just enough sotto voce four letter words, Rick learned to stay upright and turn left and right and find the thread of meaning that brought him from the top to the bottom of the mountain.
He reconnected with his skiing friends and started making plans to return to Aspen, the site of his accident and the place he’d lived after college and had eventually owned part of a home. He had closed his eyes to winter and much of his physical life between the accident and when Kurt convinced him to join the project and try to ski again. Skiing had been transformative for him as it had been for me, but we were at different stages in our lives. I was just out of my teens and Rick already had a career and children older than I’d been when I had my accident. The cancer stood in his way to finding some of that physical renewal. Perishable sounds predictable, inevitable, but predictable. Each day that passes confirms predictable and inevitable, until something happens. When that something happens we’re confronted with that question. Have we approached life with the conviction that we’ll live forever and the realization that it can all end tomorrow? Rick I’m glad to have known you and sorry to see you go.